Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent in today’s society, it’s a condition that can be prevented and managed with diet and lifestyle changes yet, sometimes it can be confusing, so let’s demystify it.

What is Type two diabetes? Type two diabetes is a progressive condition where the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or cannot produce enough insulin in the pancreas.

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and/or the insulin does not work effectively and/or the cells of the body do not respond to insulin effectively which is known as insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes develops over a long period of time taking years to develop, during this time the insulin resistance starts, as a result the pancreas responds by producing increasing amounts of insulin to attempt to manage blood glucose levels. When insulin overproduction occurs over a long period of time, the insulin producing cells of the pancreas wear themselves out, so by the time someone is diagnosed with type two diabetes they have lost 50-70% of their insulin producing cells. This means Type two diabetes is a combination of ineffective insulin and not enough insulin.

Diabetes is diagnosed with a blood test, many people with type two diabetes will present with symptoms such as increased thirst and urination, tiredness, slow healing of wounds and persistent infections. Some people will present with no symptoms at all, this is why late diagnosis is common for diabetes and this can cause an increased risk for other complications.

There are two tests for diabetes, a blood test which can be fasting or random and an oral test called the glucose tolerance test (GTT). A diagnosis is made when either (a) symptoms are present and fasting blood is at or above 7.00mmol/L or random blood test levels are at or above 11.1mmmol/L. (b) HbA1c blood test result is 6.5% (48mmol/mol) or (c) there have been no symptoms but the patient has had two abnormal blood glucose tests on separate days.

People may have a genetic disposition to getting type 2 diabetes but the risk for anyone is significantly increased in those who present with a number of modifiable lifestyle factors such as: high blood pressure, excess weight or obesity, little or no physical activity, poor diet or an apple shape body that holds most of the fat around the waist.

People at higher risk:

  • Family history

  • Risk increases with age (people over 55)

Overweight or have High Blood Pressure and over 45

  • Over 35 and from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background

  • Over 35 and from a Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background

  • A woman who has had gestational diabetes, given birth to a child over 4.5kg or has Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Diabetes is a complex condition that affects many parts of a person’s body. It can also have an impact on a person’s mental health. The complications of diabetes are the same for type one and type two.

People with diabetes, are four times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. This is due to changes in the blood which can cause blood vessels to narrow and/or clog up completely. People with type two diabetes also have three times more kidney failure than the average. This occurs when the nephrons inside the kidneys are damaged leading to a build-up of waste and fluids, this then leads to diabetic kidney disease and if untreated can lead to kidney failure. Diabetes is also the leading cause of preventable blindness, this can happen regardless of age and blood sugar management so it is best to have regular eye check-ups. 30-50% of people with diabetes will also suffer with depression and anxiety, this can make daily diabetes care and monitoring very difficult and if neglected can lead to further complications. Early diagnosis, optimal treatment and ongoing care reduce the risk of diabetes related complications.

The short-term goal for handling Type 2 Diabetes is to get blood glucose levels as stable as possible. This can be achieved by getting on an appropriate diet, such as the low-fat plant-based diet. This will also help lose any excess weight. Getting physically active is very important as well as smoking cessation if necessary. This will prevent the condition worsening and eliminate or greatly reduce the risk of other health complications.

A Long-term goal would be to maintain the stable blood sugars and to help reduce or possibly eliminate the need for medication in conjunction with your physician. Studies have shown that with these changes, medications can be greatly reduced and this would be the healthiest outcome.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with or has the early signs of type 2 diabetes then contact our Nutritionist Bronwen at bronwen@nbip.com.au to start managing your condition.

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